Iran arrests over 100 people for poisoning schoolgirls

(CNN) Iran has arrested more than 100 people in connection with the poisoning of hundreds of schoolgirls across the country, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Citing a statement by Iran’s interior ministry, IRNA said people were “identified, arrested and investigated” in several cities, including the capital Tehran.

“Preliminary inquiries suggest that many of these people have resorted to mischievous or audacious measures like using harmless and foul-smelling substances with the aim of disrupting classes and influenced by the psychological atmosphere created,” the statement said. ”

Iran has seen a wave of suspected poisonings in recent months, carried out almost entirely at girls’ schools.

While Iranian politicians have suggested the girls could have been targeted by radical Islamist groups, activists believe the poisoning may be linked to nationwide protests that erupted last September over the death of Mahsa Ami . Several schoolgirls have been active in the protests, removing their mandatory headscarves in classes, tearing down pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling for his death.

Medics, parents and teachers have accused the Iranian government of trying to silence the victims.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei previously called the suspected poisoning an “unforgivable crime” and called for “severe punishment” for anyone found responsible.

Among those arrested, the ministry said, were “individuals who had hostile intentions, sought to create fear and panic among people and students, close schools, and create pessimism towards the Iranian government”.

“They will remain under investigation until necessary assurances are received,” the statement said, adding that the number of poisoning cases in girls’ schools across the country has come down over the past several days. Has been

According to Iranian state media, the first suspected poisoning occurred in November at a high school in the city of Qom, in which 18 schoolgirls were hospitalized.

The mother of Kom’s two daughters previously told CNN that the two girls, who attended different schools, had suffered serious health problems after being poisoned.

One girl experienced nausea, shortness of breath and numbness in her left leg and right arm, while another had “difficulty walking,” she said.

Another incident in the city occurred in February when more than 100 students from 13 schools were hospitalized after what Iranian state news agencies described as “serial poisoning”.

Both the United States and the United Nations have called on Iranian authorities to thoroughly investigate the suspected poisoning and hold those responsible accountable.

The White House said Monday there must be a “credible, independent” investigation into the poisoning of schoolgirls in Iran, suggesting it may be under the purview of the United Nations to look into the matter.

Previously, the Biden administration noted that Iran was conducting an investigation of its own. But CNN’s Phil Mattingly questioned Monday, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying the situation may fall within the mandate of the UN’s independent fact-finding mission on Iran.

“We are closely following the situation we are seeing in Iran,” he said. “The poisoning of schoolgirls across Iran is unconscionable. There must be a credible, independent investigation (and) accountability for those responsible.”

He added that if the poisoning was related to the recent protests, it was “well” within the mandate of the UN fact-finding mission.

“There is a possibility that girls in Iran are being poisoned just for trying to get an education, it’s shameful, it’s unacceptable,” she said.

With previous reporting by CNN’s Kevin Liptak

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